Crowley back in the swing as hitting coach for 2008

October 15, 2007|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN REPORTER

As expected, the Orioles are holding on to longtime hitting coach Terry Crowley for 2008 while they move aggressively toward filling their recently created vacancy at pitching coach.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley confirmed that Crowley would be returning for his 10th consecutive season as Orioles hitting coach. Crowley is the only member of the staff who was with the major league team at the beginning of 2006.

"I think Crow brings stability to the coaching staff. He's well liked by the players, and ... his work ethic is exceptional," Trembley said. "I have talked to Crow, and he is committed to supporting our philosophy and our approach to teaching and preparation. And I think that's very important as we start to identify our particular style."

It is likely the Orioles' next move will be to replace Leo Mazzone, who was fired Friday after two seasons as pitching coach.

Although Trembley would not offer a timetable or progress report for filling out his staff - which also includes vacancies at bench and first base coach - the team is making pitching coach a priority.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Orioles are expected to soon make an offer to former Florida Marlins pitching coach Rick Kranitz, perhaps as early as today.

The Orioles have not officially interviewed Kranitz, the 2006 Baseball America Coach of the Year with the Marlins, but Trembley and club president Andy MacPhail worked with him for years in the Chicago Cubs organization.

Kranitz interviewed with the Seattle Mariners last week and could be a candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates but had no official offers as of yesterday. There is also the possibility that Kranitz, who left Florida in September after receiving a minimal proposed salary increase for 2008, will land wherever his former Marlins boss, Joe Girardi, ends up managing.

But, the source said, Kranitz definitely seemed "intrigued" by joining the Orioles. Kranitz could not be reached for comment.

As for Crowley, it was no real surprise he would be returning for another year in an Orioles uniform. He had a year remaining on his contract and was told privately at season's end that he would be coming back.

But with growing public speculation that he could join Mazzone in the unemployment line, he seemed relieved the decision was made public.

"I'm happy to be back. We're going to try to improve on our performance in '08," said Crowley, 60, who will begin his 14th season overall as an Orioles coach and 26th with the big league club after 12 as a player.

In 2007, the Orioles finished sixth in the American League in batting average with a .272 mark, despite having only one regular, outfielder Nick Markakis, hit .300 or better. The Orioles finished ninth in runs (756) and on-base percentage (.333), tied for ninth in on base plus slugging (.746), 10th in slugging average (.412) and 11th in home runs (142). Partially because of injuries, only four of Crowley's regulars - Markakis, second baseman Brian Roberts, designated hitter Aubrey Huff and first baseman Kevin Millar - played 140 games or more.

"One bright spot this year, pretty much everyone who finished ahead of us in hitting went to the playoffs," Crowley said. "Offensively, hopefully, we're not that far away. If we can improve offensively in '08, it could be a much better year for us."

Crowley joins third base coach Juan Samuel and bullpen coach Alan Dunn as they wait to see who will be part of Trembley's 2008 staff.

In other Orioles news, veteran pro scout Jim Howard has been promoted to advance scout, replacing longtime Orioles scout Deacon Jones, who is taking on lesser responsibilities as he eases into retirement.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Up at the plate

AL team batting average leaders in 2007.

Team .............. Avg.

Yankees ....... .290

Tigers ............ .287

Mariners ........ .287

Angels ........... .284

Red Sox ....... .279

Orioles .......... .272

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